English ‘war bride’ speaks at Varnado Store Museum

Published 11:51 am Friday, June 6, 2014

Iris Cole Morris, the first English World War II bride to arrive in Franklinton, shared her experiences during a talk Sunday at the Varnado Store Museum.

The large crowd assembled in the Franklinton museum’s annex included many of Morris’ family members and friends, along with local history buffs and others in the community.

To kick off the June 1 event, Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming presented Morris, 90, with a framed certificate of recognition, a lapel pin and a key to the city.

“We appreciate you, and we’re so glad you came back today to visit with us,” he told her.

Morris spoke about her years in England’s National Fire Service, for which she was drafted at age 17, and about her first encounter with American solider Lee Roy Morris at a dance in West Moseley at the start of 1944.

A guitarist, Cpl. Lee Roy Morris, a member of the U.S. Army, Eighth Air Force, was playing “hillbilly” music at the dance. They met, “and the rest is history,” she said.

They were married Aug. 17, 1944, when Morris was 20 years old. Their wedding took place at a church in England in the midst of an air raid.

Morris said her husband was shipped to France three weeks later, also spending a good deal of time in Belgium and Germany.

“In the meantime, I finished my time in the National Fire Service and got my discharge in June 1945,” she said.

After spending two weeks at an Army base in England, where her paperwork was processed, she boarded an Army transport ship bound for New York. The voyage was rough, and she said she was seasick throughout.

Upon arrival in New York, Morris spent three days in the harbor and was put on a train heading toward her destination of Louisiana.

“I was told they didn’t wear shoes in Louisiana,” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Her father- and mother-in-law met her at the station in New Orleans in April 1946 and drove her back to Franklinton, where they lived at that time.

She said the people were friendly and welcoming. But it took some time to get used to being in a new place, and she was homesick.

“That night we went to a movie,” she said. “It was an English movie, and I cried. I wanted to go home.”

Her parents, brother and two sisters moved to Louisiana within the next couple of years.

Morris said she made many good friends in Franklinton and that she and her husband were involved with the VFW.

They lived in Franklinton for eight years, running a service station. In 1954, they opened a service station in Bogalusa and moved there with their son, Clifford.

Morris said she lost her husband 12 years ago. She misses him and thinks about him all the time, she said.

She said she enjoys her volunteer work with the American Legion Post 24 Auxiliary, where she has been a member since the early 1970s, and with the Our Lady of the Angels Hospital Pink Ladies.

The Rev. Carlis Hart, president of the Varnado Store Museum board, and Museum Director Terry Seal thanked Morris for her presentation.

“We are so pleased that you would come and share with us today,” she said.

After the talk, attendees were able to visit with Morris and view items that were on display in the museum annex, including photos, newspaper articles and other mementos.

A collection donated by Morris is also on display in the museum as part of the “A Tribute to the Military” exhibit, which will be up through the end of June.

The exhibit can be viewed during the museum’s regular hours of operation: Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.